Aboriginal Canadians used clay from Kisameet Bay, British Columbia to treat their ailments for centuries – from stomach complaints to skin irritation. Now, researchers have found that there might just be something to the clay’s purported healing properties after all. It turns out this 10,000-year-old deposit of clay is highly effective against many serious antibiotic-resistant infections.

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In a recent study published in the journal mBio, University of British Columbia scientists found that a dangerous group of bacteria simply died when incubated in water combined with the clay. ESKAPE pathogens, as they’re known, are responsible for the majority of hospital infections in the US, and include Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species.

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This could be a major step forward in fighting superbugs, but it’s not ready to be used as a treatment yet. Unfortunately, treating an illness in human beings is much more complicated that simply culturing bacteria in a test tube, and it’s not clear yet whether the clay would be safe for widespread use. There’s also the small matter of figuring out exactly how the clay works to destroy these bacteria. While the outcome of this initial study should be reason for excitement, it’s unlikely a medication based on the findings will be available anytime soon.

+ University of British Columbia

Via Popular Science

Images via University of British Columbia